Nobody’s Perfect, But…, Part 1

In his letter to Titus, the apostle Paul challenged his young protégé: “show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity, and sound speech that cannot be condemned …” (Titus 2:7-8a, ESV). Peter, likewise, exhorted the elders throughout Asia-Minor to “be examples to the flock” (1 Pet 5:3, ESV).   God’s Word is eminently clear that the life of the minister of the gospel of Jesus Christ must emulate the message of that very gospel.

In preparation for a workshop entitled “Who Me, Blameless?” that I will be presenting at our Feb 22-25 Advancing the Church Conference (ATC), I recently read a deeply challenging book entitled Nobody’s Perfect, But You Have to Be (Baker, 2005). Author Dean Shriver’s central proposition is well summarized in the book’s subtitle – “The Power of Personal Integrity in Effective Preaching.”  Shriver rightly argues that while all believers’ lives are to be characterized by integrity, for pastors integrity is everything. Acknowledging that there has only ever been One truly perfect Preacher, Shriver underscores the importance of integrity in preaching.  He introduces the all-important topic by defining integrity as “the state of being whole or undivided,” noting that we as preachers demonstrate integrity when unity exists between the truth we proclaim and the lives we live. He rightly asserts [pg. 16]:

Integrity is crucial to our preaching. Integrity is more crucial than a well-crafted introduction. It’s more crucial than smooth delivery. In preaching, integrity is always more crucial than technique because all the oratory skills on earth can never transfuse spiritual power into a sermon bled dry by a preacher’s own contradictory life.

Shriver, of course, is not negating the importance of sermon preparation and delivery, but rather putting them in the larger context which includes the oft-overlooked condition of the delivery vessel.  Or as appropriately asserted by noted author E. M. Bounds [Power Through Prayer, 69], “We are not saying that men are not to think and use their intellect. But he who cultivates his heart the most will use his intellect the best.”

Through examining specific areas of the preacher’s integrity, Shriver provides practical and challenging insights by which to evaluate one’s own life and ministry.  The areas addressed (with a chapter devoted to each) include: above reproach (or blameless), humility, contentment, fidelity to God’s Word, courage, purity of life, purity of mind, and temperance.  As an aside, I will argue at next month’s ATC workshop that the clear scriptural directive for pastoral leadership begins and ends with one non-negotiable – the aspiring pastor must be “blameless.”  While the workshop will unpack the numerous qualifications for pastoral leadership as detailed in 1Timothy 3 and Titus 1, I will argue that “blamelessness” is not one among equals but is, in fact, the governing lens through which all the other qualifications are to be read.

In the next part of this post I will document some of the great voices in church history on this issue of integrity.

About Al Huss
I am a professor of New Testament at Calvary Baptist Seminary in Lansdale, PA

One Response to Nobody’s Perfect, But…, Part 1

  1. Rob3 says:

    Thank you Dr. Huss! I hope they record your workshop, I’d love to be able to hear it!

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